Saturday, October 10, 2009

After-Dinner Sports Tales - Gareth Southgate

This month is my fifth installment of light hearted after-dinner sporting tales, as told by current or ex-professional sportsman.
My after-dinner sports tale for this month is one told by Gareth Southgate, a well respected football player and now club manager, who has been a model professional since making his debut in 1988.

Born in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1970, Southgate began his career at Crystal Palace, playing in central midfield. He became captain and led the club to the 1994 Division One title.

He moved to Aston Villa in 1995 for a fee of £2.5 million, having made 152 appearances and scoring 15 goals over four seasons for the South London club.
In 2001 he joined Middlesborough as a player, before becoming the Teeside clubs manager in 2006.

"I went to watch a match with my wife and the family of a friend (who was playing).

People started turning around to ask me for autographs, which is always flattering but can start to interfere with your enjoyment of an event.

By now the game had kicked off and yet still I was being passed scraps of paper and programmes to sign.
I obliged, but must confess I was getting irritable as I tried to watch the game.
A flag was passed along then a ticket.

'Pen?' I asked down the line, somewhat abruptly, and a pen was duly passed down the line.
'What's his name?' I asked my friend's wife, and the query was passed down the line.
'To John, all the best, Gareth Southgate,' I wrote and passed the ticket back along the line.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the guy look at the ticket and start to edge along the row.
I'm just about to say to him: 'Look mate, no disrepect, but I'm trying to watch the game,' when he says apologetically: 'Excuse me, I'm very sorry but you're in my seat."

During the 2003–04 season Gareth became an author, penning Woody & Nord: A Football Friendship with close friend and former West Ham goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman. This book describes an enduring friendship forged in the Crystal Palace youth team that has survived Southgate and Woodman's wildly differing fortunes in the professional game. The book won the Sporting Book of the Year Award for 2004 from the National Sporting Club.

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